Building Resilience in the Global Climate Emergency
It is abundantly clear that the climate is changing with profound impacts on our environment, economy, society and our security. The main cause is human activity, primarily as a result of two centuries of greenhouse gas emissions from the production and consumption of fossil fuels. It will take a generation or more to transition fully to a non-fossil fuel world. As a result, future impacts are inevitable and will continue until, and even after, the world achieves net-zero emissions and re-balances the carbon cycle. The inescapable conclusion is that adaptation, primarily through enhanced resilience, is imperative if we and the environment on which we depend are to survive.
The aim of this year’s Policy Conference is to help enhance the national and global dialogue on the role of adaptation in addressing the threats of climate change. The conference will examine policies that will not only help to shield us from the impacts of climate change but provide ancillary benefits that will make our lives, our communities, our economies and our environment more sustainable. The conference will build on previous studies such as the Council of Canadian Academies’ Experts Panel on Climate Change Risks and Adaptation Potential, and other initiatives such as the Flagship Report of the Global Commission on Adaptation.
The conference will examine a range of potential climate change impacts in Canada, for example on food and agriculture, community infrastructure, and health. The range is large and we will be forced to make choices. Fortunately, there is a rich base of research which we will distill for the conference. We plan to have representation from municipal, provincial and federal governments as well as subject experts. We will choose three or four sectors and explore, through a series of “what if” scenarios, potential adaptation responses to mitigate the climate change impacts. For each set of responses we will explore the possible conflicts and ancillary benefits for greenhouse gas reductions.
The most devastating impacts of climate change, in terms of lives lost and property damage, will be inflicted on developing countries. Since developing countries are low emitters of greenhouse gases, they are the least responsible for climate change, yet bear its worst consequences. There is thus a moral obligation on the rich countries to support their adaptation efforts. In addition to a focus on Canada, the conference will explore a range of impacts of extreme weather on these developing countries as well as actions and resources required to build their resilience.
Participants will help generate a report with clear conclusions and recommendations to be forwarded to political leaders and to be shared widely as a contribution to public discourse of this critical issue. The Group of 78 will continue to advocate to governments on these recommendations in the years ahead.